Interdependency Application # 4




This final application involves sequencing your routine so the synergists or stabilizers from one exercise become the prime movers in the next-for example, doing Hamstring Curls, where the main stabilizer is the spinal erectors, and then immediately doing a set of Hyperextensions, where the prime mover is the spinal erectors.

based on the interdependency of Muscle Groups, we can increase the effectiveness of exercise by:

  • Never working a muscle as prime mover before that muscle is called on to work as synergist. (The Interdependency Principle)

  • doing Compound Sets; same prime mover, different synergists

  • Pre–exhausting

  • Sequencing exercises so a muscle that functioning synergist or stabilizer in one exercise id forced to function as a prime mover in the next.


There are many exercises for each body part. Some rely heavily on synergists and stabilizers. Most of these are "major body motion" exercises like Bench Press, Seated Rows, and Squats. Others rely only moderately on synergists and stabilizers. These are more focused exercises like Pectoral Flys, Tricep Kick-Backs, and Leg Extensions.

Major body motion exercises duplicate the ways you use muscles in everyday life.

Think about it-when was the last time you did a motion resembling a Tricep KickBack outside of the gym? In contrast, every time you push open a door, or help a neighbor move a couch or refrigerator, what you are doing looks a whole lot like a Bench Press. Every time you lift a heavy box from the floor, the motion resembles a Squat. And if you have to put that box on a top shelf, you are essentially doing a Military Press.

The kind of functional strength resulting from major body exercises is much more important in terms of health and effectiveness in day-to-day physical activity than the limited, specific strength resulting from isolation exercises.

This doesn't mean isolation exercises are "bad." Quite the contrary. Isolation is a powerful tool for maximizing the development of specific muscle groups ~r segments of specific muscle groups. What it does mean is you should never construct a routine consisting solely of isolation exercises.

A balanced workout includes both major body motion-"functional strength" exercises, and isolation exercises.

However, Functional Strength Exercises (FSEs) should precede isolation exercises. Here's why:

FSEs are most effective when performed with heavy weights-and in the interest of safety, it's better to do heavy exercises before you tire the synergists and stabilizers for a body part. Doing FSEs with heavy weights maximizes the involved muscles' Fatiguel Tension level, tires the prime mover sufficiently for later isolation exercises to have an effect, and puts sufficient stress On the ligaments to strengthen them.

That last point is very important. Only a substantial overload-like the kind you get performing FSEs with heavy weight-puts sufficient stress on your musculoskeletal system to strengthen ligaments and thicken bones.

After the functional strength exercise, you will do several other exercises arranged to isolate different parts of the prime mover.

Isolation means focusing stress on an individual muscle or muscle segment~ Ask most people, and they will tell you isolating calls for a specific kind of exercise-usually the kind where only one joint is active-for example, Delt Flys (just shoulder) or Tricep Kick-Backs (just elbow). Indeed, isolation exercises of this sort are effective, and we will be using them in our routines. But they represent a limited approach. Much more important is achieving isolation through exercise sequence. Any exercise can be an effective isolation exercise depending on where it is placed in a routine.

Look back at the section on Preexhaustion (here). The arrangement of upper back exercises in the example at the bottom of the page turns Lat-Pull Downs, usually an ineffective functional strength exercise, into a good isolation exercise for certain muscle fibers in the teres and lats.

The fibers that take the strain here normally wouldn't even get worked. That's because while the lats and teres are fresh, certain fibers always assume the load. Exercise Physiologists call these the "first to be recruited fibers." Since the series of exercises preceding the Pull-Downs has exhausted these first-to-be-recruited fibers, others that normally wouldn't be involved are forced to pinch hit. As a result of exercise sequence, you have effectively isolated and worked a part of a muscle that would otherwise have gone untrained!

  • Major body motion exercises most closely match the ways you use interdependency muscles in everyday life.

  • Except where pre-exhaustion is required, major body motion exercises—which we will call functional strength exercises—should precede isolation exercises.

  • Isolation can be achieved via specific exercises(usualy involving only one joint action) OR via exercise sequence.

  • Exercise should be sequenced to provide progressively greater degree of isolation, and to isolate different sections of the prime mover.

Developing functional strength is an important part of training for health, as well as for phenomenal gains.

These are not mutually exclusive goals. In fact, except in the case of certain extreme training choices (like whether or not to take steroids, which, by the way, we recommend against), the very techniques indicated for optimizing long term health are the most effective for maximizing gains.

For example, in the interests of developing functional strength, we encourage you to begin your work for each body part with a major body motion exercise. Research has shown that including such exercises in your routine stimulates growth throughout the body, not just in the part being worked. Functional strength exercises are synergistic-do them, and your entire workout becomes more effective!

Two other techniques will contribute to the development of functional strength, and to the effectiveness of the routines we suggest.

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